Miss Ginsu: About/Bio

 

Blended Bacon Butter (& Friends)

One of the first techniques we learned in cooking school was for making compound butter. It's essentially just butter that's softened, blended with something flavorful, reformed and re-chilled for serving.

Compound butters are so decadent and so easy — though they never fail to impress guests when you make the effort — and yet, they're one of those delicious details I invariably forget about.

Bread & Butter
Why bread and butter when you could be eating a better butter?

Here's three recipes for compound butters — each supremely simple and very tasty. You'll notice the method is the same for each, so once you've made one or two, you can kind of go crazy and add in just about anything you like.

The Bacon Butter is divine on grilled vegetables (try it on your corn-on-the-cob), the Herb Butter is great sliced and slipped under the skin of a chicken you're about to roast, the Anchovy Butter especially loves steaks and broiled fish... and (surprise!) all three are delicious spread across the surface of a fresh baguette. Or maybe even a hot biscuit. Mmm...
Blended Bacon Butter
1 stick (1/4 lb) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup crisp bacon, finely crumbled (or proscuitto or serrano ham, minced)
1/4 Tbsp kosher salt (or to taste)
1/2 Tbsp freshly ground pepper (or to taste)

1. Blend the butter in a bowl with the bacon or minced proscuitto/serrano (a wooden spoon works well for this).
2. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
3. Roll the butter into a tight log shape in parchment paper or plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours, or up to 1 week. If you won't use it that day, wrap well (or seal in a freezer bag) or freeze for up to 3 months.

Zesty Herb Butter
1 stick (1/4 lb) unsalted butter, softened
1 Tbsp garlic, minced
1 Tbsp parsley, minced
1 Tbsp chives, minced
1/2 Tbsp tarragon, minced
1/2 Tbsp lemon zest
1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
1/4 Tbsp kosher salt (or to taste)
1/2 Tbsp freshly ground pepper (or to taste)

1. Blend the butter in a bowl with the garlic, herbs, zest and lemon juice (a wooden spoon works well for this).
2. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
3. Roll the butter into a tight log shape in parchment paper or plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours, or up to 1 week. If you won't use it that day, wrap well (or seal in a freezer bag) or freeze for up to 3 months.

Garlic Anchovy Butter
1 stick (1/4 lb) unsalted butter, softened
4 Anchovy fillets, minced
1 Tbsp garlic, minced
1/2 Tbsp lemon zest
1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
1/4 Tbsp kosher salt (or to taste)
1/2 Tbsp freshly ground pepper (or to taste)

1. Blend the butter in a bowl with the minced anchovies, garlic, zest and lemon juice (a wooden spoon works well for this).
2. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
3. Roll the butter into a tight log shape in parchment paper or plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours, or up to 1 week. If you won't use it that day, wrap well (or seal in a freezer bag) or freeze for up to 3 months.


Happy Eating!
Miss Ginsu

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8.14.2008

Faux Yo?

With new fro-yo joints spreading like a plague around the city, proclaiming health superiority, probiotic power and "live & active cultures," I got to thinking back to junior high biology... could frozen yogurt really could support active bacterial cultures? I mean, isn't freezing one of those things we do to food to stop the growth of bacteria?

Susky Banana Rama
Fro-Yo... no better than the Susky Banana Rama?

So I wrote to food science writer Harold McGee for the, er, scoop:
Mr. McGee,

I've seen a lot of ads for probiotic products at frozen yogurt shops as of late. I understand the desire for healthy flora, but doesn't the process of freezing a yogurt kill off the little buggers? It doesn't seem like a frozen yogurt could possibly do much good for the intestines.

Best Regards,
Miss G.

*****

Miss G,

Freezing does kill some but not all of the bugs, so if they've "fortified" with probiotics, you'll get something. If it's just standard froyo, then the yogurt is diluted with lots of sugar and other stuff and you'll get less.

Best wishes,
Harold

Aha! So it is possible to get some helpful cultures in the tummy though your Pinkberry, but somehow I think it's still better for the belly to eat un-frozen yogurt.

Heidi Swanson of (101 cookbooks) posted a very tasty-looking (not to mention easy looking) vanilla frozen yogurt on her site that I'm planning to try out, but I view that as fun, not filled with health benefits.

Meanwhile, I'll stick with morning yogurt and granola or smoothies to feed my belly buggies. But given the popularity of fro-yo, I'm probably alone in my suspicions that it's no good for you at all.

So what about you, reader? Do you consider the care and feeding of your internal flora? Or do you let the little guys fend for themselves? If you've got a minute, drop a note and let me know.

Cheers!

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7.23.2008

Recession-Proof Recipes: DIY Tamales

I've noticed that after you've been blogging for a while, you find that your commenters often come up with even better material than you do. Oh, how I love online community!

A couple of my favorite blog comments can be found at the bottom of this post, in which commenter M. delves far beyond my sci-fi depth and in this post, in which an anonymous commenter has an astoundingly vast knowledge of butter.

This weekend, I received a very cool note from wine wizard Eric Hazard, who convincingly pitches this week's Recession-Proof Recipe: Homemade Tamales. What a gift!

Just about the only thing he doesn't provide is a wine pairing... although I think I'd prefer these little guys with horchata or an icy lager, myself.

Oaxacan tamale at La Loma, Minneapolis
Oaxacan tamales at La Loma, Minneapolis

From the man himself:
So, here's something to consider, since it is great way to extend meat and it is just so much fun to make: tamales.

Being from South Texas, I have long ago given up trying to find good tamales in NYC. So I took to making my own last year, and I've got it pretty well down.

Even though they look extremely difficult, the base ingredients are really simple.

Most crucial is Masa Harina. I had a devil of a time finding it in Manhattan, I'm sure it would be easier to find in the ethnic food markets in the boroughs. If not, $20 will buy plenty via Amazon. Corn husks can also be ordered, but this time of year, corn is plentiful so why not save the husks to be used later? (Plus, how cool is it to find a use for what most people would just throw away).

Tamale masa is basically a combination of the masa harina corn meal, lard, baking soda, salt and chicken stock. This forms the basis for whatever meat (or vegetable) you wish to put into the tamale. It is really tasty and really filling, making the more expensive ingredients inside go a long way.

For my filling, I use pork, cooked with green chilies, diced tomatoes, garlic, onion, cumin, chili powder, and enough chicken stock to keep it honest as it slowly boils. Once finished, I run it through the food processor to chop it up and evenly distribute the flavors.

Then it is a matter of spreading the masa on the moist corn husks, laying down some filling and rolling up. The batch is then steamed for 45 minutes and you're done.

Really filling, really tasty and you can make a ton to freeze and save for later. If I had to take a guess, I'd say I can make a dozen for about $10. Most of that being the cost of pork.

As an extra bonus, the Homesick Texan just recently posted about making your own lard, so you could really go to town on the DIY tip if you were inspired.

As far as quantities for the batter, you should probably go with about a cup of fat to every four cups of masa harina. That'll yield about 35 tamales.

DIY Tamales
1 cup lard or vegetable shortening
4 cups masa harina
1 Tbsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock

You'll also need
Your filling of choice (stewed pork, cheese, chicken, veggies, etc.)
About 40 corn husks, soaked in hot water for 20 minutes
Twine or kitchen string

1. Blend lard or shortening, masa harina, soda, salt and stock together.
2. Spread about 1/4 cup of tamale batter across the center of each husk.
3. Spoon about a tablespoon of filling along the center of the batter.
4. Wrap the batter around the filling, rolling in the sides and tucking the bottom of the husk. Bind top (and bottom, if necessary) with lengths of twine or kitchen string. Repeat this process with the remaining husks, batter and filling.
5. Place two or three dimes in the bottom of a large pot fitted with a steamer basket (while it boils, they'll jingle, letting you know there's still water in the pot) and add enough water to meet the basket base, but doesn't let that level rise above it.
6. Stand the filled husks in the basket, keeping them upright, but not cramped.
7. Bring the water to a boil, then cover the pot and reduce the heat to keep the water simmering gently. Steam about 45 minutes.


If you really go crazy for homemade tamales, you should definitely try some Brownie Tamales while you're at it. Invite a few amigos over. Bust out the cervezas. Have a fiesta on the cheap!

Muchas gracias a Señor Hazard por una buena idea!

Salud a todos!

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5.28.2008

Day 2: Soup for a Rainy (or Snowy) Day

This post marks Day 2 of Miss Ginsu's 2007 Advent Calendar. To click into other days and other projects, use the calendar page to navigate.

Chicken soup is now scientifically proven to alleviate symptoms of the common cold (and even if it wasn't... it's so warm and soothing we probably shouldn't care about the scientific studies that much anyway). I think it makes sense to keep a few pints of it in the freezer.

Why? Well, what if you should happen to catch a cold? It is, after all, cold season.

If you've prepared in advance, a welcoming bowl of home-cooked soup is sitting right there waiting for you to warm it up. And if a friend or loved one gets the flu... you get to be Jenny on the Spot... there, soup in hand, to rescue the poor dear with a lightning-fast delivery of love. The well-stocked domestic goddess is a good friend to have.

Neon Matzo
Matzo on the run in Berkeley, CA

If you happen to be one of the many who enjoy the convenience of the rotisserie chicken, you're already halfway there.

Step 1: Rotisserie Chicken Stock

Eat most of the rotisserie chicken, saving aside all the bones and excess skin. In a separate container, save out about 1 cup chopped chicken for the soup. You can use white meat, dark meat or a combination of the two.

Put the bones in a large stock pot and cover with water (about 2 quarts).

Add:
1 bay leaf
1 tsp black peppercorns
2 medium onions (quartered)
2 carrots (roughly chopped)
2 celery stalks (roughly chopped)
2 sprigs fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dried)
A handful of parsley stems

Simmer, covered, for an hour to an hour and a half.

When the bones are boiled bare and the vegetables are soft, place a colander (or a sieve) over a suitably-sized pot or bowl and carefully pour the hot liquid through, catching the solid materials in the colander. Discard all the bones, herbs and veggies. You can cool the stock and store it in convenient pint-size containers in the freezer or move right on to...

Step 2: Comforting Chicken Soup

4 cups chicken stock (the rotisserie version or otherwise made/purchased)
1 cup onion, diced
1 cup celery, diced
1/2 cup carrots or parsnips, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup chicken meat, chopped (reserved from the rotisserie chicken)
2 tsp chopped fresh parsley, dill or tarragon
Salt & pepper, to taste

Optional fanciness for serving:
lime or lemon wedges
matzo balls, cooked egg noodles or rice

Over high heat, bring stock to a boil in a large stockpot with lid on. Add onion, celery, carrot/parsnip and garlic. Lower heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until veggies are tender. Add chicken and simmer 5 more minutes. Remove from heat, add herbs and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Add in cooked noodles, rice or matzo balls (if using).* Finish with a squeeze of citrus, if desired.

Serve immediately, or cool and ladle into pint or quart containers to freeze for future tastiness and/or rescue missions.

* If you're planning to freeze this soup, I'd recommend leaving out the starch.

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12.02.2007